Valérie Belin: All Star at Edwynn Houk Gallery

Art Scene

Valérie Belin: All Star at Edwynn Houk Gallery

The heroines of photographer Valérie Belin‘s latest body of work, All Star, never look directly at the camera. Although their gazes are left, right, and downward, they do not appear to be looking at much. In fact, Belin’s composition, shot in a film noir style, seems to be intentionally chosen to draw viewers into the multilayered re-working of vintage comics that complete each photograph. Classic comics including Supergirl and Captain America, with subtitles like, “WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WERE THE LAST MAN ON EARTH?”and, “THE THING ON THE BEACH!” set the stage for the fantastical narrative force of Belin’s images.

Installation View – Photo: Anders Jones

An odd juxtaposition of modern women in human form interspersed beneath and above layers of comic book illustrations and text creates a vast sense of depth in the work. Viewers may be driven to look closer and closer, searching for the story that lays behind the eyes of each female character. What is she up against? What is she plotting? Who are her adversaries? Numerous comic book images at varying scales echo endless subplots within the larger frame of each photograph. Meanwhile, lone female figures loom in epic proportions at the center, resembling Amazon female warriors of Greek mythology.

Super Girl, 2016 – Photo: Anders Jones

The 11 images, presented large-scale at 68 1/8 inches by 51 1/4 inches, are both playful and extremely adult. The women, photographed from the shoulders up, all with serious expressions, green or blue eyes, pale skin, pulled back hair, and rouge lips, share a similar unifying look, yet are clearly distinct. Their shared aesthetic helps keep Belin’s work cohesive by grounding the graphic overload of each photograph in the “mind” of a woman. Likewise, a sense of spaciousness is found in her technical use of opacity to create see through layers of imagery; a technique also used in a previous series, Super Model, exhibited in 2015.

Installation View Photo: Anders Jones

Flying superheroes and horses, faces of characters in mid-battle cry, warriors taking charge, text bubbles, and abstract graphic patterns created by Belin converge on the surface of each photograph in alluring jewel tone color palettes. The absence of straightforward full throttle color found on many comic books, paired with Belin’s use of professional models, elevates the images in All Star to an intriguing level of sophistication – a level where the power and purpose of femininity are left ambiguous and unresovled.

After Thor, 2016Photo: Anders Jones

Valérie Belin: All Star is on view at Edwynn Houk Gallery through March 4, 2017.